Midway Poker Tour Payment Fiasco Leaves Players Scrambling for Answers

  • Tournament’s association with a charity limited the amount of cash that could be paid
  • The remainder of the cash prizes were paid in precious metals
  • Players did not have the opportunity to immediately exchange metals for cash on-site
  • Most players were likely underpaid because of precious metals sale prices
gold and silver coins
The inaugural Midway Poker Tour Main Event in Chicago devolved into a mess on Sunday, as most of the prizes were paid in precious metals because of state charity tournament law. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Cash for gold?

The debut of a new live tournament series over the weekend was a welcome sight to those who had missed live poker during the pandemic, but confusion and poor planning when it came to payouts put its future in question. Because of state regulations, the $1,100 buy-in Midway Poker Tour Main Event at the Sheraton Suites Chicago Elk Grove had to pay portions of its prizes in silver and gold, rather than actual money.

The 31 players who made it through the first two flights to Sunday’s final day were guaranteed at least a $2,300 payday. There was a catch, though. The poker tournament was run in conjunction with the 4 KIDS Sake, Inc. charity. Per state charity gambling regulations, the maximum payout anyone could receive was their buy-in plus $500.

most players had no idea that prize distribution was going to be setup this way

The difference between the $1,600 and a player’s prize was to be paid out in precious metals, literal silver and gold bricks and coins. The idea was for the players to then be able to exchange them with a precious metals dealer nearby for cash.

It appeared that most players had no idea that prize distribution was going to be setup this way. The tournament structure sheet mentioned nothing about alternate payment methods.

Players couldn’t make exchange on-site

The planned cash/precious metals payout combination would have been an inconvenience, but things got worse when a representative form the state Attorney General’s office arrived. Terence Shiel’s primary goal was to make sure that all the precious metals necessary to make payments were available.

the metals-to-cash exchange could not be done with someone who was on-site

He found two problems. The first was that it was not all there. Tournament organizers planned to reuse the gold and silver to pay players after others cashed theirs in. That was not allowed, according to Shiel. The second issue was that the metals-to-cash exchange could not be done with someone who was on-site.

To try to solve the problem, tournament organizers bought $208,000 worth of precious metals from Andy Mettille, co-owner AMPM.999, located in Wisconsin. Players would then get their prize and be given the contact information of someone they could turn around and sell the gold and silver to. In the end, though, there was no buyer.

Most players were likely underpaid

The situation was already bad enough for players, but it got worse when they began researching the price of the precious metals they were receiving. The silver coins were purchased for about $35 each. Not all were actually worth that much, though. That would not have been a problem if the precious metals dealer was on hand to just buy them back, but now players had to go find someone to whom to sell the coins and were unlikely to get the full prize value for them.

One player posted on Two Plus Two that he was awarded $1,000 of his prize in the form of 28 one-ounce silver coins. He looked up the price of an ounce of silver and found it was $24 and change. Estimated that he might be able to sell them for $25 each, that still means he would lose 30% of his prize because of the resale price.

It took a while on Sunday for players to realize what was going on. With ten players remaining, the tournament was paused while the players searched for answers. According to reports, nobody with any authority was both present and of help. Midway Poker Tour employees were nowhere to be seen, charity staff didn’t know anything about poker tournaments, and the Attorney General’s office representative was simply satisfied that all the prize money was available, regardless of its form.

As often happens at the end of poker tournaments, the players discussed chopping the remainder of the prize pool, but they were concerned about how to handle distributing the silver and gold. As such, they just played it out, with Renato Spahiu eventually winning the top prize of $55,060.